SALT LAKE CITY — A group of World War II veterans of Japanese ancestry and their families were honored on the House floor Monday with a resolution naming Saturday as Congressional Gold Medal Day.
"We need to be thankful," Rep. Curt Oda, R-Clearfield, said. "There were hundreds who actually volunteered from Utah to serve. There's only about 50 who are still alive."
Oda's resolution, HCR5, recognizes the veterans of the 100th Infantry Battalion, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the Nisei Military Intelligence Service, including those who served from Utah.
Nisei, the American-born children of Japanese parents, were initially classified as 4C, the designation for enemy aliens unfit for military service because of their nationality or ancestry.
Some 13,000 Nisei soldiers did serve in WWII, after being released from the internment camps in Utah and other states where they and their families were incarcerated during the war.
Oda said his mother, then a high school student, was incarcerated during the war at a Japanese internment camp in Idaho. He said his father tried to enlist in the military, but was told, "No, you're the enemy," before being drafted.
His resolution details the actions of the Nisei soldiers and their many honors. It also refers to the discrimination they and other Japanese-Americans faced during the war, including being held in what he called "America's concentration camps."
The soliders, Oda said, "are the greatest generation. If it weren't for them, I don't know where we would be today."